Animal Emotions

Do animals think and feel?

Fish Are Sentient: Proposed Memorial is Justified

Fish are sentient beings; the death of 1600 pounds of fish warrants recognition

Fish are known to be sentient and conscious beings who feel pain (see also). In her book called "Do Fish Feel Pain?", noted scientific researcher Dr. Victoria Braithwaite concluded, "I have argued that there is as much evidence that fish feel pain and suffer as there is for birds and mammals -- and more than there is for human neonates and preterm babies." (page 153).

On October 11, 2012, a truck carrying around 1600 pounds of fish crashed into two other vehicles in Irvine, California. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has asked that a memorial be built in honor the lives of the fish who were killed. It's difficult to know just how many individuals were killed but there can be no doubt that there were a staggering number of casualties to account for the 1600 pounds. 

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Some may think PETA's and other requests for a memorial to be erected is a ludicrous request, however, there are precedents for building memorials to nonhuman animals (animals) who have been killed due to human activities (see also). Surely, if the fish were dogs, there would be no resistance to building a memorial. However, at least one Irvine city official, spokesman Craig Reem, has been quoted as saying, "I do think it's fair to say we have no plans to erect a memorial," 

People often forget that fish are sentient beings and indeed they were excluded from the recent Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. This declaration needs to be revised. And the city of Irvine should erect a memorial to the countless fish who were killed. You can contact officials in Irvine here and Mr. Reem at (949) 724-6077 and at creem@cityofirvine.org.

Note: I just received this story about "loving kindness" that relates to the above essay.

Mo Dawley wrote:

I was resting by a small pond one day at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when I happened to notice two fish swimming together near the water's edge. One of the fish was having a hard time staying afloat without beginning to lean sideways as if on its way to turning belly-up. Each time the fish began to lean, every few seconds the other fish gently guided its companion upright with the side of its body or with a gentle nudge with its nose. It was the first time I had ever seen a fish practice loving kindness.

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

more...

Subscribe to Animal Emotions

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.